When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cool for Back to School: 10 Great Finds for Tween/Teen Boys

I was watching the boys playing their own version of lacrosse one afternoon last week; Noah was going up and down our street on rollerblades, with Will running alongside him as they tossed the ball back and forth to each other. They chatted and laughed together as they went along, their carefree moods indicating that there was nothing more important to them at the time than the game they were both engaged in. Seeing how much they were enjoying each other's company, as they have on so many afternoons over the past couple of months, made me wish that summer could go on forever....

But we've reached that point in August where it's clear that summer is coming to an end soon -- school and routines are waiting just around the next corner. The boys and I have started looking through what we already have in the way of school supplies, making lists of what they'll need for a new year, and doing a little shopping together here and there to make sure they're all set for September.

I remember loving back-to-school shopping when I was a kid. The aisles filled with colourful notebooks and glitter pens and scratch-and-sniff stickers held enormous appeal for me, and I still enjoy browsing the school supply shelves now. I've discovered, though, that this kind of shopping does not much appeal to my boys at all. They're satisfied choosing only a few things for themselves this time of year and then they're begging to escape the mall (which happily leaves us lots of time to still be outside enjoying the last of the summer days!)

So what are my tween- and teenaged boys interested in as far as school supplies go? Here are some of their favourite finds.

Hollister jeans: Noah has reached the stage that a friend of mine aptly refers to as "unicorn sizes". He's grown out of the largest boys' size for jeans height-wise, but he's too slim to fit into the smallest men's size. I was a little worried about what we were going to do for pants for him, until I found that Hollister sells a size 26 men's jean online. It was like finding a real live unicorn the day they arrived and we discovered they fit Noah really well (and he really likes them)!  Hollister has their jeans on sale for $27 CDN a pair right now, with free shipping if you spend $50, and items can be returned to any Hollister store if they don't work out.

Graphic tees: Tees are the staple of many boys' year-round wardrobe, and Bluenotes always has a good selection of humorous graphics that appeal to teens.  Noah is especially partial to the comical cat ones. (Did you know that "taco cat" spelled backwards is "taco cat"?) If your tween/teen is still in kids' sizes for shirts, H&M often has great graphic tees that are just right for Will.

Nike running shoes:  The one store Noah does love shopping in is the Nike outlet, where we always find good deals on quality shoes for everyday wear, phys ed class, and track practice. I'm pretty certain that by now he's tried on every pair of men's shoes in the store to weigh its merits!

PackIt lunch bags:  The boys have been using this brand of lunch bag, which comes in a few different older-boy-friendly designs, for the past several years.  They're great in that they don't require the use of a cooler pack to keep food cold throughout the day; the bag has a gel built into its walls that freezes overnight. Simply pop the folded frozen bag out of the freezer in the morning, fill it with lunch and snack foods, and go.  The PackIt bags are roomy enough to hold teenaged boy size servings of food, too.

LunchBots:  LunchBots stainless steel food containers have long been our favourites -- they're practical, reusable, and stylish looking, too. With a wide range of single and divided containers in various sizes, plus insulated ones for hot foods, it's easy to find the right combination of pieces to keep tween/teen boys well-fed throughout the school day (and the containers should last them well beyond their school years as well).

Madd Gear scooter: Will loves riding his scooter to and from school, and I'm happy to let him; I love that he's getting in some extra physical activity every morning and afternoon. This Madd Gear VX5 Team Scooter is his top pick for a set of wheels right now.

Word Lock: For boys who need to lock up bikes or other modes of transportation in the school yard, this word lock is a fun way to keep their wheels secure. They can set a four letter word of their own choosing as the combination, which may be easier for some kids to remember than a series of numbers. (Bonus: there are no keys to lose, or to find rattling around in the bottom of the washing machine with the jeans!)

Vaultz pencil box: Will really likes this Vaultz pencil box for two reasons: it's easy (it just opens and everything is there in one place), and it has a lock. Maybe this will be a better place for him to store his valuable pencil collection this year. We found the box pictured below in-store at Staples.

Bic 4-colour pens: Remember these from when we were kids? Noah is a fan of the four-in-one colour pen for its usefulness -- no need to carry a bunch of different writing tools around when you have one of these! We found a few different colour variations of the four-in-one pens at Walmart.

RuggedKey flash drive: The product description for this 16GB USB flash drive reads as follows: "Since disaster can strike at any moment, it is important to have your files on a rugged USB drive that can withstand water, extreme weather, and heavy impacts."  Apparently, the device will survive an accidental drop from a height of 100 meters, and is heat, cold, and water resistant. That sounds like just about the right amount of protection for a tween- or teenaged boy's school files!

We didn't buy any glitter pens or scratch-and-sniff stickers, but I think the boys are well-prepared supply-wise for a new school year now, anyway! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

For Noah -- 14

It was sunny and hot outside on this morning fourteen years ago, just like it is today. Your dad and I set out for a walk around the streets of our neighbourhood, me in the early stages of labour, both of us feeling eager and excited and frankly, a little bit scared about what was about to happen to us that day. We couldn't wait to meet you, the baby we had held close in our hearts for many months already, and we hoped in earnest that we would know the right things to do to make you feel safe and happy and loved, first as we welcomed you into the world, and then as we helped you grow in all the years that would follow.

I suppose today, as you turn fourteen, I should feel a little bit scared, too. You're heading to high school in a few weeks, and your life over the next several years will be full of changes and opportunities. More and more, you will figure out for yourself what makes you happy, by finding your own path and making your own decisions. But at this moment, I don't feel scared at all. You have such a good head on your shoulders, such a kind and beautiful heart within you, that all I can feel is eagerness and excitement for what is about to happen to you.

Your dad and I have made mistakes over the years as we've learned how to be parents, and yet you have grown into a caring, responsible, wise young man who fills our hearts with pride and a love that we couldn't have even imagined on that hopeful sunny morning fourteen years ago. I hope you'll remember to be as forgiving of yourself when you make mistakes in the coming years as you've been with us. We will always be here for you as a place of safety and love (though we try now to offer it in the least embarrassing ways possible!)

Happy 14th birthday, Noah!  May your year be filled with the very best kinds of adventures.

Love, Mom  xoxo

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hey, what's happening?

It always feels somewhat awkward to come back here after being quiet for a longer than usual period of time. It's like being in a room full of people and not really knowing what to say:

"Um, hi! How are you? What's new?"

"Oh, hi! I'm good! Not much new with me... how about you?"

I figure the most reasonable thing to do right now is to talk about what we've been up to lately and hope that it stops feeling awkward soon.

So here's the scoop:

We recently travelled up to Matt's parents' place on Lake Nosbonsing, near North Bay, for a very fun family reunion weekend. There were siblings and parents and cousins galore, and we all had a wonderful time together playing in and on the water, talking and joking, eating, and visiting around campfires. My mom- and dad-in-law did an amazing job of organizing such a good time for so many people and feeding us all so well throughout the weekend.

Reconnecting with family over the summer is always one of our favourite things to do.

This week the boys are both involved in structured activities: Noah is taking his Bronze Medallion course, in preparation for future summer employment as a lifeguard, and Will has been participating in a Junior Achievement entrepreneurship camp, with a focus on tech startups. Both boys are really enjoying their week (even if getting moving in the morning and packing lunches in the evening feels difficult after so many weeks of complete freedom!) Noah is glad to be engaged in such useful learning and to be back to swimming lengths in a 25 yard pool, where he feels very much at home, and Will has come home from camp every day bursting with excitement and ideas after visiting local offices like Google and D2L and learning how to code. I'm really happy for the time summer gives the boys for exploring new opportunities.

Last night, some of the teachers and students at Will's dance studio helped three local radio personalities learn the "Watch Me" dance. Will has been doing the whip and nae nae all summer long on pool decks and lake rafts (there is proof in some of the photos I posted earlier this summer!), so he was very happy to participate and had a great time. You can watch a video of the event here; Will is at the front in the light blue t-shirt and backwards hat, right between his dance teacher and radio personality Carlos. :) (This was his six minutes and twelve seconds of fame!)

We have also been surprised twice this week by random raccoon sightings. Will and I saw the fence walker on the drive to his summer camp one morning, and this morning, the little tree climbing fella tried to cross a trail I was walking on, got spooked when he saw me, and high-tailed it up a trunk, where he stared at me, unblinking, for a good long while.

I feel like maybe the universe is trying to tell me something this week with the sudden appearance of multiple raccoons, but if it is, I don't have the first clue what the message is.

That's pretty much it as far as news goes here!  We're looking forward to celebrating Noah's 14th birthday on Saturday (14!!?), and to enjoying the last few weeks of summer holidays together. (Must. Ignore. The back-to-school lists and flyers and paperwork that are trying to distract me....)

I hope your summer has been going swimmingly, too.  What have you been up to?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Easy Bumbleberry Jam

It's a holiday in our province today, and a quiet summer Monday morning seemed like just the right time to make some jam with the baskets full of fresh local berries we had in our fridge. I've been curious to try making a jam thickened with chia seeds, versions of which I've been seeing all over the internet, for awhile now, and the bumbleberry kind that came out of my experimenting made me happy that I finally got around to it. This really tasty jam requires very few ingredients, is lightly sweetened, and is super simple to make: a perfect summer treat!

Easy Bumbleberry Jam

4 cups mixed fresh berries, washed 
 (I used a cup each of strawberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, and blueberries)
1 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp ground chia seeds 

Place the berries in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse for a few seconds at a time until all of the berries break down. (If you don't have children like mine who are adamantly opposed to any recognizable pieces of fruit in their jam whatsoever, you can skip this step.)

Place the berries in a saucepan over medium heat, and sprinkle in the coconut sugar. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in the ground chia seeds, a little at a time. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes or until it is thickened, stirring often.

Remove the jam from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.  Spoon the jam into glass jars with tight fitting lids and place them in the refrigerator to cool completely.

This jam is bursting with berry flavour and is delicious spread on toast or rice cakes with natural nut butter, spooned onto homemade biscuits, or stirred into plain, unsweetened yogourt or oatmeal. Will loved the sample I gave him and declared that he was going to eat this jam every single day from now on. Given its low added sugar content, I'm very happy to agree to that!

Are you looking for other delicious things to make with fresh berries? You might also enjoy this berry galette (which I made this weekend, too!) It's so nice to enjoy these wonderful summer foods while we can.